The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has shared its ‘inputs for formulation of National Telecom Policy -2018’ to which the industry has welcomed it, but also said to achieve all targets, huge investments would be required by the operators.

In order to change some old regulations, especially the 20-year method of calculating licence fee (LF) and spectrum usage charge (SUC), TRAI said a review and rationalisation of both the levies in the new telecom policy is required.

The National Telecom Policy-2018 (NTP-2018) is being prepared by the Department of Telecom, which is expected to come next month. DoT had requested TRAI suggestions in August last year for policy inputs in NTP-2018.

Revenue issues

“A number of issues related to gross revenue (GR) and adjusted gross revenue (AGR) are being litigated at various forums and it is essential that these be resolved at the earliest,” TRAI said in its suggestions.

It said a review of GR and AGR would assist in enhancing clarity and removing ambiguities.

“Further, due to layering of service providers in the value chain that is infrastructure, networks, services and applications, it is essential to review the positions to avoid cascading of levies,” its said.

In addition to reviewing the licensing fee and SUC structure, there is a need to review the rates of such levies keeping in view the fact that the access spectrum is now being assigned through auction process and telecommunication networks have become underlying infrastructure for growth of digital economy, TRAI said in its inputs.

“Boost to the digital economy would generate more employment for citizens and revenue to the government,” it said.

TRAI said the vision of the new policy should be developing a competitive, sustainable and investor-friendly information and communication technologies (ICT) market for rollout of digital communication infrastructure to provide affordable and consumer-friendly products.

The regulator said to enable access for IoT/ M2M sensors/ devices, there should be close coordination with stakeholders relating to agriculture, smart cities, intelligent transport networks and consumer durables to develop market for IoT/ M2M connectivity services.

And, by identifying and making available new spectrum bands for access and backhaul segment for timely deployment and growth of 5G network, it said. “For orderly growth of the sector, it is essential that interests of the consumers are fully protected and their grievances are quickly redressed. This should be strengthened through awareness, establishing office of telecom ombudsman, and centralised web-based compliant redressal system,” TRAI added. Welcoming the suggestions of TRAI, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) said the Authority has considered most of the suggestions made by the industry body, and has come out with the objectives along with specific timelines to achieve the same.

Financial stress

However, it also said urgent support of the government is also necessary to improve the deteriorating financial health of the sector.

“The industry has already invested over ₹9 lakh crore, the sector is currently reeling under a debt of over ₹4.5 lakh crore and a substantive investment is required of over ₹2-3 lakh crore over the next couple of years for a fully connected and a Digitally empowered India,” Rajan S Mathews, Director General, COAI, said.

He said the industry has, therefore, called for creating a stable, predictable, innovation and investment, friendly regulatory and policy environment. “We hope that the government will extend both urgent relief, and address these systematic issues outlined by the industry, aligned with the recommendations issued by TRAI,” he added. – The Hindu Business Line 

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